Bihar elections 2020: How will it affect polls in Bengal and Assam  

If Bihar demonstrates that the Maharashtra-Jharkhand-Delhi outcomes were not a fluke, then the BJP will have to think hard and long over its prospects in West Bengal and Assam

Bihar elections 2020: How will it affect polls in Bengal and Assam  

Amulya Ganguli

The BJP will not be too pleased with the way the election scene has been panning out in recent times. After losing Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Delhi and suffering a jolt in Haryana, it is facing the prospect of yet another jolt in Bihar.

The ruling alliance in the state may win, but there are signs that the opposition Mahagathbandhan will run it close. Even a saffron scribe noted the difference between the large crowds at Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav’s rallies and the smaller ones at Narendra Modi’s although he ascribed the smallness to the BJP’s stricter observance of the COVID rules.

A setback for the “double engine” Janata Dal (United)-BJP combine in the sense of falling well behind its initial expectations of a runaway victory in Bihar cannot but have an adverse impact for the BJP in the next round of elections in West Bengal.

The recent change of plans there with Union Home Minister Amit Shah paying a two-day visit to the state instead of party president JP Nadda is an indication that the BJP is expecting a tougher battle than what it may have earlier thought.

True, Mamata Banerjee has become known for several deficiencies such as turning a blind eye to the lawlessness of the Trinamool Congress cadres, which was starkly evident during the 2018 panchayat elections, and corruption as in the case of the “cut money” phenomenon where real estate transactions are allowed to be conducted only if the proprietors pay a certain amount to the cadres.

As a result of these political and official shortfalls in the maintenance of law and order, critics have altered the chief minister’s original “Ma, Mati, Manush” slogan to “Ma, Mati, Mafia”. Not surprisingly, the BJP has benefited from her lapses as its success in winning 18 of the 42Lok Sabha seats in 2019 with 42.8 percent votes against the Trinamool’s 22 seats (52.3 percent) showed. Clearly, the “north Indian” party has replaced the CPI(M) as MamataBanerjee’s main opponent.

The million-dollar question is whether the BJP will be able to sustain the momentum which it gained last year. If Bihar demonstrates that the Maharashtra-Jharkhand-Delhi outcomes were not a fluke, then the BJP will have to think hard and long over its prospects in West Bengal.

It cannot allow yet another setback on the eve of the next round of elections in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala. In none of these states can the BJP expect to perform well. The BJP will pin its hopes, therefore, on Assam where it is now in power. But the party can not be totally certain of success considering that the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) have formed an alliance against the “communal” forces and have decided to contest 80-100 seats out of the total of 126.

Although the AASU-AJYCP combine is wary of the two other main opposition parties in the state – the Congress and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) – the possibility of a secret understanding cannot be ruled out. Meanwhile, the AIUDF is said to be keen on aligning with Congress.

Success in Bihar, therefore, is imperative for the BJP. Nor can it afford to just scrape through, for that will be a blow to both Modi and Nitish Kumar and breathe new life into their opponents not only in the state but all over the country. The impact on next door U.P., which goes to the polls in 2022, cannot also be minimal.

An understanding between the RJD’s Muslim-Yadav (MY) support base and the Dalits, disheartened by Mayawati’s growing proximity to the BJP, will be a formidable combination although whether the two Yadavs – Tejashwi and Akhilesh – can get along together is an open question.

Whatever the permutations and combinations, it is a good sign that several young leaders are coming to the fore. While Akhilesh has been unable to sustain the traction which he had gained when he teamed up with Mayawati against the BJP before the last assembly elections in U.P., Tejashwi has been the surprise package.

The 31-year-old school dropout has astonished friends and foes by shedding his earlier non-descript image and emerging as a sober, mature leader who chooses his words with care and avoids the traps set by the BJP’s spin doctors. The result has been that NitishKumar has become irascible and the BJP has had to fall back on Laloo Prasad Yadav’s and his wife, Rabri Devi’s admittedly dismal record of governance between 1990 and 2005 which has come to be known as jungle raj.

In contrast, the “yuvraj of jungle raj”, as Modi calls Tejashwi, has said that his focus is on“kamai, padhai, dawai” or jobs, education and medicines, thereby avoiding being caught in a slanging match.


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